When People Say “I Want to Help!” 10 Million Times

For the past few weeks, everyone here at the VolunteerMatch office has been paying close attention to our live connection map. This map lets us see, in real time, every time someone clicks the “I want to help!” button on a VolunteerMatch listing.

So, why have we been watching this map so closely?

We’ve been counting down to a huge milestone: 10 million connections created between nonprofits and potential volunteers. And at around 7 a.m. on Monday October 5, 2015, the 10,000,000th prospective volunteer clicked “I want to help!”

You may be saying, “So what?” Well, we all celebrated with cake, so that was something to look forward to:

VolunteerMatch celebrate 10,000,000 connections with cake!

But besides that, it actually says a lot about the world of volunteering.

When a volunteer clicks, “I want to help!”, that’s just the beginning. The initial click is a good intention. It’s an opportunity for nonprofits to reach out and build a relationship with a new prospective volunteer. It’s a mutual hope to take action and make the world a better place.

What happens next? Well, according to our research, only about half of “I want to help!” clicks turn into actual volunteers. Why? Maybe the nonprofit never responded to the volunteer’s offer. Maybe it turned out it wasn’t a good fit once the volunteer and the nonprofit learned more about each other’s skills, schedule, and wants. Maybe the volunteer simply changed their mind.

So, out of 10 million online connections, about 5 million actually volunteered. 5 million. That’s not an inconsequential number. That’s 5 million opportunities for nonprofits to grow their capacity. That’s 5 million ways for volunteers give back, become a part of something, and/ or build their skills. 5 million chances to make our communities, and the world, just a little bit better.

Let’s break it down even more. On average, a volunteer will stay with an organization for 2.5 years. During those 2.5 years, they will volunteer 28 days at an average of 3 hours per day. Add all that together, and you have 150 hours per volunteer. What does that equal when multiplied by 5 million?

750,000,000 volunteer hours.

Let’s just step back and think about all that can be, and has been, accomplished with 750 million hours. To put it in perspective, that’s 1,205 entire lifetimes. Here are just a few examples of some of the volunteers and nonprofits making a big difference with their time. Oh, and a few more.

It’s amazing to think about everything that’s already been done, and what we all can accomplish, together, in the next 750,000,000 hours.

The Future of Volunteer Engagement in 8 Quotes

If you haven’t already noticed, we’re pretty excited about our new book Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World.

Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Book CoverWhy? Because the book is all about transformation. Let me explain.

From new technologies changing not only how volunteering is talked about, but how it’s performed, to a new generation with an unprecedented desire to find meaning through social good, one thing is for certain. The world of volunteerism is changing.

At VolunteerMatch, we work with over 100,000 nonprofits. And we want each of these nonprofits to not only keep up with this changing world, but we want them to grow and thrive in it.

Hence Volunteer Engagement 2.0. The book brings together 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. Each chapter, written by a different expert, gives both actionable advice and broad discussion about how volunteerism is changing and how you can use this to your volunteer program’s advantage.

Haven’t read the book yet? It’s easy to order your copy today at a 25% off discount. In the meantime, we’ve pulled a few of our favorite quotes from the book:

“History teaches that where there is change, there will be volunteers. Whether reactive to societal trends or proactive in urging solutions to problems, we can safely predict that volunteers will find whole new causes in the years to come.”
Susan Ellis, Chapter 2: A History of Change in Volunteer Engagement

“In study after study, we see that millennials want more out of life than previous generations. Not more money, but more meaning.”
- Aria Finger, Chapter 5: Engaging Millennial and Younger Volunteers

“I’ve been fortunate to work with thousands of volunteers over the years in a variety of settings. When I think back on some of the best of the best, those volunteers who truly made a difference, I don’t remember how long they served. What I do remember is what they accomplished.” 
John L. Lipp, Chapter 7: Keeping the Volunteers You Have

“If volunteers weren’t the most important part of social change before the Internet, they most definitely are now.”
Mark Surman, Chapter 9: A New Engagement Model for the Internet Era

“Remember you have something precious to offer a rich and diverse community of pro bono professionals who want to give back: a meaningful and authentic experience!”
Deirdre White & Amanda MacArthur, Chapter 18: How to Get the Right Pro Bono Expertise for the Job

“The better you communicate your impact, the more your organization will become a magnet for all forms of giving.”
Joe Waters, Chapter 19: Volunteering and the Future of Cause Marketing

“From America’s classrooms to its boardrooms, volunteers advance the spirit of service in so many ways. We know we are at our strongest and our best when we serve others.”
- Wendy Spencer, Chapter 22: National Service for the Twenty-First Century

“Seize the initiative and invest in yourself. Your future depends on it. And our volunteers, our organizations, and our communities deserve no less.” 
Katherine H. Campbell, Chapter 25: Taking Charge of Your Professional Development

Want more? Order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0 today at 25% off.

Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Joe Waters, SelfishGiving.com

Joe Waters, contributor to VolunteerMatch's new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldVolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Today’s expert: Joe Waters Founder, SelfishGiving.com.

The following post, written by Joe Waters, originally appeared on the Selfish Giving blog.

I’m excited to be one of the 35 experts in VolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World.

I was surprised when VolunteerMatch asked me to contribute a chapter. I just didn’t view cause marketing as connected to volunteering – and I thought the book’s editor, Robert Rosenthal, and I agreed on this point!

You see, Robert was the guy who dissuaded me from including volunteering in my last book on nonprofit fundraising, Fundraising with Businesses: 40 New & Improved Strategies for Nonprofits.

I had considered several volunteer-related strategies for the book, but in the end I only included one: volunteer grants, also known as dollars for doers programs, which match a corporate volunteer’s time with a small grant from the company to the nonprofit.

So, why would I now write a chapter on cause marketing for a book on volunteering? Because Robert actually had a much better grasp of what volunteering is and where it’s headed than I did. Although he was right to nix volunteering from a book on fundraising tactics, he was also right that volunteering would have a major impact on cause marketing. Robert challenged me to adjust my perspective on the connection between volunteering and cause marketing.

A major hurdle for me was realizing that volunteering was more than just those little old ladies who used to stuff envelopes at my last nonprofit job.

No, volunteering is so much more.

Volunteering is when a person freely chooses to spend his or her time – unpaid – supporting a needy group or individual. A volunteer’s goal is to have a meaningful, measurable impact.

Using my new lens on volunteering, I peered out and discovered something incredible: Volunteering isn’t just connected to cause marketing; it’s the future of cause marketing. As focused as I was on defining cause marketing as a partnership between a nonprofit and for profit, I neglected the spark that makes these pacts ignite: individuals. These motivated and empowered do-gooders will be the key drivers of growth over the next generation.

You can read all about it in Volunteer Engagement 2.0!

Along with my chapter, you can read the contributions of 34 other volunteering experts.

  • Beth Kanter explains Measuring the Volunteer Program.
  • Aria Finger talks about Engaging Millennials and other Younger Volunteers.
  • Amy Sample Ward writes about Volunteer Engagement on the Social Web.
  • Scott Henderson talks about Getting the Most Out of Hackathons for Social Good.
  • Angela Parker and Chris Jarvis write on Partnering with Workplace Volunteer Programs.

This book has everything. An awesome, relevant topic, a great editor, a wonderful group of contributors and a chapter from yours truly!

Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldTo read Joe’s full chapter, Volunteering and Future of Cause Marketing, order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.




How VolunteerMatch Volunteers: The Power of Teams

The VolunteerMatch Team at Baker Beach

My VolunteerMatch volunteer team at Baker Beach

At VolunteerMatch, we work full-time on volunteerism. But we also like to get out of the office and volunteer ourselves!

That’s why we’ve split up our staff into small volunteer teams, each led by a team captain.

Mainly, this is for encouragement. We want our staff to feel like they’re supported in their volunteer efforts. A team gives them a place to go to share what they’re working on, generates suggestions from coworkers for new volunteer opportunities, and builds momentum for volunteerism within our organization.

Recently, the volunteer team I lead volunteered at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (GGNPC). It’s one of my personal favorite organizations to volunteer with in the Bay Area. The staff are incredibly friendly and organized, and I feel great giving back to a place that allows millions of San Franciscans to enjoy its services every year.

Another reason why I love volunteering with the GGNPC is their amazing group volunteering activities. With summer coming, I was looking for a volunteer project that would get me and my coworkers outside for the afternoon. I emailed GGNPC letting them know the size of my group and the dates we were available. They quickly put together a project plan for us with directions to the project site, details on what we would be doing and some information on the impact we would be making to their organization.

Our group arrived at a wooded area next to Baker Beach with a warm welcome from the GGNPC staff. They told us some amazing facts about the area (such as, San Francisco used to get its water from a stream running into Baker Beach) and the types of plants we would be seeing during the day. They instructed us on how to pull weeds and plant flowers correctly, along with how to most efficiently use each of the gardening tools.

After three hours of work, our team had worked so diligently that the GGNPC team rewarded us with a guided Nature Walk. Taking us through the woods, they showed us how volunteers like us make a difference in the natural habitat. Without our weeding and gardening, the beautiful California poppies wouldn’t be able to survive! Our nature hike ended at Baker Beach where we were rewarded with a spectacular view.

I encourage anyone – companies, organizations/ clubs, families, groups of friends – to seek out opportunities such as this.  Group volunteering is a great way to get people out of their chairs and interacting with one another. (And if you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, check out the GGNPC!)

2014 Impact Report: Volunteer Engagement Shows Signs of Recovery

2014 Impact Report 2“Our democracy works because ordinary folks, well-meaning people, each and every day are trying to make it a little bit better.”  -Barack Obama, May 4, 2015

Every year, VolunteerMatch crunches its network data to put together an Impact Report, our infographic version of an annual report. And each year, the report offers insights into volunteer engagement trends, and the people and causes making a difference in neighborhoods across the country.

This year, we discovered five encouraging stats that show the nonprofit sector and volunteer engagement may finally be recovering from the economic recession.

Volunteer Engagement by the Numbers:

Stats from VolunteerMatch's 2014 Impact Report

  • 99,132 – the number of groups and causes on VolunteerMatch. working to engage the volunteers they need to make a difference in their community. A record 8,200 new causes registered in 2014.
  • 20% – the increase in new opportunities posted on VolunteerMatch by local causes and groups, inviting volunteers to put their time and talent to good use for a cause they believe in, as compared with 2013.
  • 13,285,814 – the number of potential volunteers accessing VolunteerMatch to find their opportunity match to make a difference.
  • 44% — the increase in the number of potential volunteers who connected with a local cause or organization, as compared with 2013.
  • $1.34 Billion — the estimated collective impact of the volunteers who used VolunteerMatch in 2014 to get involved.

If you are looking for more data and insights into the health of volunteer engagement, view the full report.